Black & White

And Beautiful All Over


Cosmetics and beauty packaging is as much part of the experience as the product within. The design of the packaging is extremely trend-driven, but also influenced by technology, which is forever providing new delivery methods and vessel concepts. In the past few years, the artisanal, “authentic” or eco-friendly theme had the most traction, with retro or hand-lettered fonts, hand-applied labels, and rustic materials ranging from galvanized metal or tin, to copper, recycled paper, twine, and wood. Now, the pendulum seems to be swinging back to the other extreme, with clean, graphic presentations gaining ground. Simple package design allows one to focus on the product within. It also imparts a sense of purity and potency. Typography becomes key, with the lettering itself expected to communicate a world of information in concise form. Here, SOMA scrutinizes several beauty products with standout, black and white design.

No examination of graphic, high contrast packaging would be complete without mention of the absolute classic of the genre, the Chanel compact. With its luxurious, glossy black lacquer-finished case stamped with either the instantly recognizable interlocking “C” logo or the equally iconic brand name rendered in bold, white, capitalized sans-serif font, this packaging remains forever modern. This visual theme is taken a step further with the Les 4 Ombres Tissé Smoky, an eye palette containing four shadows that range from white to black, impeccably engineered to render the perfect smoky eye. A pair of other notable black and white packaged products are the Le Jour de Chanel Morning Reactivating Face Care and La Nuit de Chanel Evening Recharging Face Care, two complementary products, which can be instantly identified by their containers: white for day, black for night.

High contrast is often shorthand for high fashion. One of the more original brands to use this tonal code to signify luxury is L’Eaundry, an extra-indulgent laundry detergent. It may seem strange to include laundry detergent in a discussion about high-end skincare, but this isn’t to be confused with Tide with Bleach: L’Eaundry is a cleansing elixir that forges its own category with its consideration of clothing as one’s “second skin,” and its whopping price of seventy-nine euro per bottle. The product comes in two distinct scents: one for women, which is redolent of ripe green figs and is housed in an elegant, all-white bottle stamped with a stylized rounded bottle shape, and one for men, which smells of the obscure Olibanum, otherwise known as Frankincense, this one in a glossy all-black container emblazoned with a stylized, squared-off bottle. Might we suggest simply using the white bottle for whites, and the black one for darks, gender be damned?

Grasse-based perfumer Galimard also uses color, or lack thereof, to differentiate between masculine and feminine scents, and it uses the power of black and white packaging to impart modernity to its product line. In existence since 1747, this company nevertheless positions itself —almost— on the cutting edge of technology with its Perphone perfumes. Provided you still own an iPhone 5 or 5s, you can give yourself a fragrant spritz every time you check your text messages, with the Galimard Perphone, a streamlined phone case that incorporates four changeable perfume cartridges. Of course, the women’s version is snow white, and the men’s, pitch black. Both are stamped with a stylized version of the brand’s logo, the coat of arms of Jean de Galimard, the house’s noble founder.

The Olson sisters’ fashion and accessories line, Elizabeth and James, which is widely accepted to be cooler than the sum of its founders, has hit another homerun with its two Nirvana scents, which of course come in White, a feminine scent of peony and musk that is counter-intuitively described as embodying “dark sophistication,” and Black, a vanilla-intensive masculine-feminine jus. The best packaging: a purse-friendly solid perfume, housed in either a white or black textured rectangular compact with luxurious gold trim. The solid perfume within is perfectly white, which furthers the monochrome visual allure, and the brand name is discreetly etched into the glimmering gold edge so as not to detract from the clean lines. Black, white, texture and gold? That certainly screams luxury.

One notable and new cosmetics brand that uses the power of darkness for good is Retrouvé Skincare. The brainchild of Jami Morse Heidegger, granddaughter of the founder of cult favorite skincare line Kiehl’s, this line is restricted to four unisex, universal products. Precious and incredibly rich, dye-free, preservative-free, and silicone-free, the potent formulas replete with rare ingredients and are mixed in an air-free vacuum, then transferred to elegant, black frosted glass, airless pump containers with a glossy black cap. These containers definitely look great on the vanity, but more importantly, they protect the product from maleficent air and light. At close to five hundred dollars a pop, we want those creams as coddled as possible. Retrouvé’s black packaging has the side benefit of imparting an ineffable sense of luxury and timelessness. Not to mention, these containers come nestled in inky matte black boxes and black bags with the logo rendered in tone-on-tone gloss, so stylish and beautiful that it seems a shame to ever throw them away.


Text by Karena Gupton Akhavein